New York is a city that loves to run. The fact that there is no parkrun astounds me. There are plenty of locations within the concrete jungle to accommodate an event, but I don’t know if it’s insurance, or event overload, or what, there is nothing. I do like to run whilst away, mostly to keep up my fitness, but I wanted to do something. You know, make it worthwhile.
I found the Summer Series events at Riverside Park, located on the Upper West Side. Each individual event cost just $10 in advance, with the potential to win prizes. They seem to take place fortnightLy, with a winter and summer series. I looked at the previous results, and saw that on most events, with my parkrun times at present, I could be first female in my age group, and even a top 3 finisher, on some occasions. The course profile that I found had a similar one to Braunstone parkrun. My interest was more than piqued.
I didn’t want to enter before arriving in New York, in case of jet lag, or injury niggles, or just sheer laziness (we end up walking stupid distances exploring places). The website allowed for entry up to 3pm on the day, before it doubled. I was shocked, on the morning, and having decided to have an easy day (I think we covered about 11 miles on our first full day, not including a morning jog along the Hudson River path) to find that online entries were not available! I resigned myself to not running, but emailed the organisers, just in case. Just before we were due to go to the Top of the Rock, I was emailed back; there was an error. Online entry had been restored, and we could run!
The start was some distance from our hotel, so we ventured onto the Subway during rush hour, resplendent in our running gear. As this was a race, it was only right that I wore my club vest. Nobody bothered to notice.
We arrived at the start very early, over an hour before the race was due to begin. Thankfully, the organisers had set everything up, but it was very quiet. I was kind of regretting it, as I was not feeling great, whether it was low BP, or jet lag, I was feeling whooshy. We collected our numbers, which were chipped, but were clearly from different events! The Bloke’s even had a name on, not his! He was apparently Maria Messenger! We were told that the organisers recycle the unused numbers from major events, to provide a chip timed race. Phew! Maria, sorry, The Bloke was relieved.
Among the early arrivals were a couple of runners, clearly of East African origin, one male, one female. They were in matching Adidas kit. You know, really nice stuff. Not off the shelf stuff we all wear. The woman looked familiar, and I started Googling Ethiopian distance runners, because something in the back of my mind had been twigged. I couldn’t find any details. We even heard someone saying, “yeah, there’s some ringers here tonight”, so the field might not be as slow as I thought! What made it worse was she kept walking past me, on purpose, and looking at me! As if I’d be a threat to someone who could run potentially run 5k a good 8 minutes quicker than me! No, it wasn’t because I was obviously looking. I have excellent peripheral vision.
It had been warm and sunny when we arrived, but the wind started to pick up, and the temperature dropped. It clouded over. It started thundering and lightning across the river in New Jersey. Cue my asthma rearing its unwanted ugly head. I also had a case of Phantom Wee, but was told that the portaloo was “a bit of a mess”, so had to give it a miss. As the organisers started to usher us to the start, the rain appeared. It wasn’t a surprise. New Jersey had disappeared. This deluge could be heading our way. One woman said as much, but in true British spirit, I said that it was merely a shower approaching. We are well accustomed to rain. We did not have to stand through the singing of the American National Anthem as we were going to start on time, which most runners were okay with, but seemed to wind a few others up. It’s the law, you know.
It was announced that this was also an interclub championship race, and that it was great to see so many clubs represented, and so many fantastic runners. Great. My prize chances were being washed away with the now present rain.
Then we were off.
We started way too quickly. I told Carl, but it was a downhill section, and it was hard not to moderate the pace. It wasn’t far in that we saw a hairpin bend that had a significant increase in gradient. For a hill hater, seeing what was coming made a little bit of me scream inside. I knuckled down, and pumped my arms. It hurt.
The course was worse than parkrun. Up, down, up, down, the gradients were far steeper. That meant that the uphills hurt, and the downhills were over too quickly to take advantage of. Unlike the profile I had seen, it became apparent that this course looped backed on itself, and wasn’t a loop. We saw the front runners, including the elite woman, who looked like she was out for a jog. The Bloke was also doing my head in. He was running with me, and could easily just go, but wasn’t. He was also on the wrong side to me, being on my left. This meant that when there were obstructions, he wasn’t giving me any room to get by, and was taking corners too tightly. I told him to just go, in no uncertain terms, in the end. I do prefer to run on my own, and just do my own thing. Thankfully, for the sake of our marriage, he went off.
I was struggling to breathe, and everything hurt. I felt as though I was slowing down. I could see The Bloke ahead; he had gone so far, then stopped. Even more frustrating. More and more men were going past me. The undulations on the way out seemed worse going back. It had stopped raining. The deluge never really happened. I would’ve appreciated it. I was coughing my way around.
Running back down the hairpin, I thought it couldn’t be far from the finish, but it seemed to drag. The Bloke started to pull away again. Damn it. I had nothing. Reaching the 3 mile marker, I felt like I was running through treacle. A girl being paced went past me. It sounds awful but I was thinking, “I should be beating her”. I couldn’t muster any more effort, though. I finished in 24:44, so yes, I should have been quicker. I was gutted, to be honest. I felt drained, and dizzy at the end. I’ve run quicker, and felt better. How elite athletes cope with travel, I don’t know.
There was water, and an apple at the end, if we wanted it. I just wanted the water. I couldn’t stop coughing. It was starting to rain again, and I knew The Bloke was ready to go, but I wanted to find out if I had won anything. There was an outside chance. I nearly asked someone, but thought it would be cheeky. Sods Law said that hanging around would mean nothing. Yeah, I knew I hadn’t won a cash prize, but surely I placed for my age group?
It was growing quite dim when the organisers made the announcements, from oldest to youngest. The age groups were wider, ten years instead of five. Bugger. Everyone was called up, clearly all regulars, as they all seemed to have a story. The crowd a-whooped and a-hollered. “Now for the women 40-49,” the announcer said. “In third place,” he said.
He called my name.
The silence was deafening.
I collected my prize, a Leicester City blue US pint glass. With absolutely no dignity at all, I shouted, “YES!”, fist pumped, and then bowed to the confused crowd. I resisted the urge to sing “God Save The Queen” (which version, you decide). How bloody rude of them, actually.
We left, and returned to the hotel. We rewarded ourselves in a pub around the corner. Cider and a turkey burger did the trick. It was hoofing it down by this time, but nothing more than a regular summer day in the UK. The results came out, and I finished 60th out of 138, and was the 17th women out of 74. We already know the rest *smug face* The Ethiopian runner was Hirut Guangul, who is registered to West Side Runners over here. Clearly the name West End Runners had got her interest, and not my running ability. Damn.
America. I came, I ran, and I sort of conquered.